Minnesota Twins (0-2) at Detroit Tigers (2-0)
Time/Place: 1:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Twinkie Town
Pitching Matchup: RHP Kyle Gibson (13-12, 4.41 ERA in 2014) vs. RHP Shane Greene (5-4, 3.78 ERA in 2014)
Kyle Gibson is a bit of a paradox. A big-bodied righthander who was a first round draft pick out of the University of Missouri, you would expect him to rely heavily on a big fastball and biting slider. This is somewhat true: Gibson can camp his fastball up to 95 miles per hour, and he threw a fastball or slider nearly 85 percent of the time in 2014. However, unlike fellow Missouri product Max Scherzer, Gibson is a ground ball artists who doesn't rack up many strikeouts. Case-in-point: Scherzer had more strikeouts (146) in the first half of 2014 than Gibson has in his entire MLB career (136). Of course, Gibson's career only spans 230 1/3 innings across two seasons. The 27-year-old righty had Tommy John surgery in 2011, delaying his progression through the minors.
The 2014 season was Gibson's first full year at the major league level, and his overall body of work was relatively impressive. He threw 179 1/3 innings, allowed a 3.80 FIP, and was worth 2.1 WAR. He induced ground balls at a 54.4 percent rate, the highest among Twins pitchers. He held his own against left-handed batters, allowing a .268 batting average and .705 OPS. He only allowed 12 home runs, the third-lowest total among AL starters with at least 170 innings pitched. He even avoided a second half letdown, allowing a 0.11 difference between his pre- and post-All-Star break FIP splits.
The above paragraph suggests a season far better than the 4.47 ERA that Gibson allowed. While he allowed less than a hit per inning and a decent 1.31 WHIP -- roughly league average numbers -- he only stranded 66.3 percent of baserunners. This figure, well below the league average, indicates that Gibson had trouble pitching with runners on base. He allowed a .757 OPS with men on and a .796 OPS with runners in scoring position, numbers well above his .628 OPS with no one on. His walk rate jumped and his strikeout rate declined in these situations, a disastrous combination.
Shane Greene pounded the lower third of the strike zone in 78 2/3 major league innings last year, racking up over a strikeout per inning while holding opponents to a .715 OPS despite a .330 BABIP. A lot of his success was due to a pair of excellent outings against the Tigers -- he had a 4.38 ERA against everyone else -- but his electric raw stuff and newfound command opened eyes around the league. Lefties hit .280/.363/.398 against him, something that the Tigers are trying to combat with an increased emphasis on his changeup. He only used the pitch eight percent of the time against left-handed batters last season, but located it very effectively when he did.
Tigers hitter to fear: Ian Kinsler (.429/.467/.643 in 16 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Nick Castellanos (.091/.167/.091 in 12 plate appearances)
The Tigers didn't have much of a problem solving Gibson last season. They collected 31 hits in 27 innings against him, batting .287/.369/.389 with seven extra-base hits in five starts. Gibson was able to collect a pair of wins, but also failed to get out of the fifth inning on two occasions. The heart of the Tigers' order led the way, as Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and J.D. Martinez collected a combined 18 hits in 53 at-bats. Gibson has never faced Yoenis Cespedes.
Greene has never faced the Twins, but Torii Hunter went hitless in four at-bats against him as a Tiger last season.
Shane Greene's Tigers debut has been one of the more anticipated events among fans since the club acquired him in December. A tall, slender righthander, Greene dominated the Tigers in a pair of starts last season, allowing two runs in 15 innings. His strikeout rate jumped significantly from his relatively mundane minor league numbers, and many are skeptical of whether he will be able to continue his solid 2014 numbers for a full season in 2015. Today's game doesn't mean much in the long run -- Anibal Sanchez's Tigers debut didn't go well, and he turned out fine -- but it would be nice to see Greene have success in his first outing.
The offense keeps rolling and the Tigers open their season with a sweep.
- Anthony Gose, CF
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B
- Victor Martinez, DH
- J.D. Martinez, RF
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Alex Avila, C
- Jose Iglesias, SS
- Danny Santana, SS
- Brian Dozier, 2B
- Joe Mauer, 1B
- Torii Hunter, RF
- Kennys Vargas, DH
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B
- Eduardo Escobar, LF
- Chris Herrmann, C
- Jordan Schafer, CF
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